Arlington, Marysville-Pilchuck softball go out swinging at district tournament

MONROE — It can't be easy, loving a fickle sport.

The Arlington and Marysville-Pilchuck softball teams took different roads to the district softball tournament at Monroe's Sky River Park May 20 and 21, but both ended their seasons short of fulfilling their state tournament dreams.

Arlington faced an especially wrenching elimination in a winner-to-state game against Stanwood.

Arlington vs. Stanwood

Longtime rivals despite their records, both Stanwood and Arlington enjoyed considerable success this season.

Stanwood won both regular-season meetings, but Arlington narrowed the margin of victory and felt good about their chances in a third chance at the district tournament. Sure enough, the teams met in a loser-out, winner-to-state game to close out the tournament May 21.

Stanwood and Arlington both relied on their ace pitchers throughout the tournament and both showed signs of tiring by this fourth tournament game. After striking out 13 in a win over Marysville-Pilchuck in the earlier game, Arlington senior Christina Rayner relied less on striking out batters than putting the ball in play and counting on her defense. The Arlington defense stepped up to the challenge, holding Stanwood scoreless through five innings.

In the top of the sixth, Arlington had their breakthrough. Senior Allie Milless doubled. Courtesy runner Heather Hamilton was stopped going for third base, but sophomore Kalie Basher got on base on the fielder's choice. She stole second and Amanda Lyon walked, setting up Lisa Allen's RBI single to left field, giving Arlington the 1-0 lead.

All they had to do was hold on for six more outs.

The first five came easily enough. But in the bottom of the seventh — Stanwood batting last, as the higher seed — Stanwood led off with a hit. After striking out one and getting another at first base, Stanwood's ninth batter singled to left field, scoring a runner and tying the game. At the top of their order, Stanwood shortstop Jordan Nemo singled as well, batting in her teammate and giving Stanwood the 2-1 win.

In just two at-bats, the dynamic completely changed.

"We played hard and it just didn't happen," Rayner said. "Everything was about one pitch, this pitch, that pitch. I thought we had it. It was hard to lose."

Marysville-Pilchuck vs. Arlington

The Arlington girls earned that winner-to-state game by eliminating M-P in the earlier game, 7-2.

Both teams put a lot of runners on base but the game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third, when Arlington senior Kristen Allen led off with a walk and a stolen base. Lyon got a hit and a stolen base, setting up Lisa Allen's two-run single to right field.

The score remained 2-0 going into the fifth inning, when the Tomahawks tied it up. Sophomore Sacha Clow led off with a hit, stealing second and third base and scoring on a squeeze play by Riley Fritz, who also took first base on the bunt.

That hit turned into the tying run as Megan Rollings and Courtney Perrine reeled off back-to-back hits, the second one batting in M-P's second run. The inning ended with bases loaded, as Rayner struck out first baseman Morgan Martinis.

Arlington roared back in the bottom of the fifth, though, making the tie a short-lived one. After Basher flew out to right field, Arlington strung together five hits and a walk, highlighted by Arlington center fielder Kirsten Wright's two-run double to put Arlington up 5-2.

M-P put runners on base in the top of the sixth and seventh innings, but were unable to bring in anymore runs, eliminating the Tomahawks from the tournament.

"I think that we fought through a lot of difficulties throughout the season," said Perrine, one of three seniors to graduate from the Tomahawk squad. She plans to play at Everett Community College next year.

"We had a lot of ups and downs, but we're still here playing on the second day," added fellow senior Jessica Tanigawa, who intends to play for Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania.

Marysville-Pilchuck vs. Snohomish

The Tomahawks made it to the second day by taking down one of their season-long nemeses.

After outhitting Snohomish in both regular season losses, Marysville-Pilchuck finally got their hits in line, defeating the Panthers 6-3 in the late game on the tournament's first day, May 20.

Snohomish struck first, setting up runners on two hits in their first three batters. A single and a sacrifice fly put the Panthers up 2-0 going into the second inning.

The Tomahawks answered.

Second baseman Megan Bombach walked and Perrine bunted, managing a double. Bombach scored on the squeeze as designated hitter Michelle Newman bunted, making first base in her own right. Right fielder Jen Rosie had the game-tying hit.

A wild pitch gave Snohomish a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second inning, but the Tomahawks closed out, stranding two runners.

In the top of the third, M-P had the hits they'd been looking for all season. Rollings singled to lead off, followed by a bunt by Bombach. Perrine got on base on another hit and Martinis doubled to score Rollings. Newman made it three hits in a row, scoring Perrine and Clow got in a double for good measure, scoring Martinis and Newman before Snohomish was able to stop the Tomahawk offense.

Neither team would muster another run.

Like they had the season before, the Tomahawks clawed their way into the tournament. Coach K.T. Allyn said those late-season wins inspired the team to play their best.

"When we knocked out Kamiak, we ended Kamiak's season. We ended Monroe's season," she said. "We had a duty to play well not just for ourselves, but for them."

Arlington defeated Shorewood 4-0 in the early game May 20, highlighted by a solo home run by Kristen Allen, her second of the year. The Tomahawks lost their district opener to Stanwood, 5-0.

The Eagles faced No. 4 Cascade in the late game of the tournament's first day. Cascade scored first, taking a 2-0 lead, but Arlington came back to tie in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run home run by Rayner. The Bruins netted a state tournament berth, scoring a run in the top of the eighth inning that Arlington couldn't quite answer, leaving two runners on base.

The Tomahawks return much of their lineup next season, including pitchers Riley Fritz and Jen Rosie, as well as reliable batters like Sacha Clow and Megan Rollings, both sophomores.

Arlington loses four seniors from this squad, which coach Dan Eng called the most successful in school history. Pitcher Christina Rayner will go to North Dakota State University next year and shortstop Kristen Allen has committed to play for Purdue University. Third baseman Lisa Allen and first baseman Allie Milless have also played their last season of Arlington softball.

"It's about these kids. They play hard. They came out and fought," Eng said. "Everybody knows they have a really tough game when they play us."

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